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Miss USA 2014 Nia Sanchez is a taekwondo black belt: Her diet & workout secrets

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Miss USA 2014 Nia Sanchez is a gorgeous brunette whose lean physique belies her martial-arts prowess. Amazingly, Sanchez is a fourth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of taekwondo.

"I teach taekwondo," Nia, 24, told Las Vegas Weekly. "I started training when I was 8, and I started teaching when I was 12, and I was a certified instructor when I was 15. It’s a good workout. It’s a full-body workout. I never get more tired working out than when I’m at the studio."

Martial Arts Foster Self-Confidence and Peace of Mind

Taekwondo, which combines self-defense techniques with exercise, is not only a fantastic fat-burning workout, but is built on a philosophy of perseverance, self-control, and courtesy, according to Doug Cook, author of Taekwondo: A Path to Excellence. Proponents say taekwondo fosters self-esteem, inner peace and confidence.

Sanchez isn't the only celebrity who's a fan of martial arts. TV host Maria Menounos maintains her 40-pound weight loss by doing Krav Maga workouts. Menounos shared her weight loss secrets in her book, The EveryGirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness.

To prepare for the Miss USA Pageant, Sanchez began following a clean, healthy diet in October 2013, and has been working out 60 to 90 minutes a day, five days a week, combining cardio exercise, weight-lifting and fat-blasting circuit training workouts. Nia's diet included five meals and one snack throughout the day, and she limits processed junk foods.

Sanchez Came from Broken Home and Was Abused By Ex-Boyfriend

While Sanchez's life may look picture-perfect from the outside, her childhood was marred by instability and homelessness. When Nia was 6, she and her mother stayed at a women's shelter for two months during her parents' ugly divorce.

Two years later, Sanchez's mom moved away to Washington State, and Nia was raised by her dad in Nevada from age 8 until she graduated from high school. Nia has a special affinity for children and women's issues, having weathered an abusive relationship at age 21.

"There was a point in my life when I was 21 when I went through a very unhealthy relationship," said Sanchez. "I was lucky that I got out of it before it got abusive, but it was aggressive, and I feel like I can really relate with [abused] women on that level more personally. I feel very blessed that I was strong enough to get out of it."

Sanchez will represent the United States at the 2014 Miss Universe Pageant later this year.

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